Peter King

Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

LI Congressman Accused Of Free Speech Violations On His Facebook Page

April 25, 2019 - 10:06 am
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Long Island Congressman Peter King says he is prepared to fight a threatened free speech lawsuit against him over blocking critics on Facebook.

At issue is the First Amendment, specifically, if blocking users on a politician's Facebook page amounts to the government limiting free speech.

The New York Civil Liberties Union says that's exactly what this is, writing in a letter to Congressman Peter King that his Facebook page is the equivalent of a public forum because King uses the page to make announcements, give his opinion and interact with constituents.

"The government can't retaliate against people becaue they're critical of government officials," said Christopher Dunn, the legal director of the NYCLU.

King doesn't agree with that characterization, telling Newsday he's on solid legal ground because the Facebook page in question comes from his campaign, not his official office.

"I am separating politics from government,"  King said, adding the page is funded and run by his campaign, meaning governmental rules don't apply. 

But Dunn doesn't buy it. 

"He routinely posts official government announcements on there, it's labeled as an official page," Dunn said.

The NYCLU is demanding King reinstate about 70 blocked users by next week or it will take legal action.

"This is a fight I welcome," he tells WCBS 880's Steve Burns. "You shouldn't allow the enemy to hijack your page."

King isn't the first politician to face these accusations.

Another case is pending from seven Twitter users blocked by President Donald Trump. 

The American Civil Liberties Union also cites other cases involving the governors of Maryland and Maine that have been forced to reinstate previously blocked users.